E-Tivity 7.2 Problem Solving

In “Designing for Problem Solving” Jonassen (2012) raises 4 issues surrounding problem-solving learning and proceeds to unpack the importance of addressing them. He suggests that “problem solving is the most natural, complex and meaningful kind of learning/thinking activity” (p. 71). In this e-tivity I invite you to consider your own teaching and whether it includes problem-solving learning and how it might be extended to include more and it what form.


Read Jonassen (2012) Designing for problem solving  in R. & Dempsey, J. (2012)Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. (3rd ed) New Jersey:Merrill

  1. Reflect on your own use of problem-solving learning?
  2. Do you learn best when presented with a problem?
  3. How can you redesign your teaching to include problem-solving?

I am a member of the OzMinecraft Educator group which is made up of about 35 teachers from Tasmania, Victoria and NSW. We meet most Monday evenings to share student projects, help each other with ideas and primarily to PROBLEM SOLVE! The above video filmed in a time lapse was of my small group and we were given the task of creating a living space for our group in 10 minutes. A lot of us are very new to Minecraft so this was a challenging task. We had to quickly share ideas, allocate jobs, and build! It was a lot of fun and we learned very quickly how to use the hot bar and inventory 🙂 By being exposed to this task and having the necessary prior skills I was able to work with my team, be motivated, foster new learning and complete the task successfully within the time limit. It was a safe environment where I knew I could access support if needed. This scenario highlights how a problem solving task can engage and develop higher order thinking and link to new learning. I really enjoy this type of  work task and as long as I have some prior knowledge and skills problem solving tasks really encourage and assist me to develop quick solutions to complex issues.

I don’t think I need to redesign my teaching to accommodate problem-solving as most primary school educators already have an automated button that consistently creates problem solving tasks for students in daily teaching. I think the key is , however, to ensure that most of the problems relate to real world scenarios. For me problem solving is key to developing deeper conceptual learning and critical for all young students development. They need to be able to problem solve especially as they endeavour to make sense of the world. If the learning task can be connected to a real world problem the learning will be meaningful, relevant and engaging for the student encouraging ownership of the learning task. That said, learning tasks must be scaffolded to foster the problem solving skills necessary to complete a set task successfully. If this isn’t the case students can easily become frustrated and disengage from the activity all together. Some problem solving tasks will also have very open ended solutions and  students need to be able to develop their problematic reasoning skills to allow for this. Jonassen (2012) highlights the complexity of designing tasks with these outcomes and suggest that curriculum designers be mindful of these dilemmas (p. 66). One students reality and interpretation of a task could be very different from another’s and from a critical realist perspective this can lead to difficulties in design and assessment ( Jonassen, 2012; Shipway, 2011).


Jonassen, D. (2012). Designing for problem solving. In R. Reiser & J. Demsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (pp. 64-73). Boston: Pearson.

Shipway, B. (2011). A critical realist perspective of education. Milton Park, Abington: Routledge.


3 thoughts on “E-Tivity 7.2 Problem Solving

  1. Kate, I agree with your focus to connect the problem solving scenarios to the real world. You are developing students with lifelong critical thinking skills.

  2. Kate I can’t agree more with your perspective on problem solving! In the automotive workplace every task from a simple service to a complex fault requires problem solving skills. So as educators I feel it is imperative that we mirror these scenarios in our delivery so students can form a link with the information and instruction that we are delivering and there everyday workplace. This makes the learning relevant to them and lets them construct the knowledge in a way that they understand rather than the way educators think they should understand it. Not to mention all the peripheral knowledge they gain as they do this.Such as information technology and time management.

    • Yes absolutely Adam, and truly the problem solving skills necessary to navigate the very complex designs of a modern day vehicle would be massive! I cannot begin to imagine the knowledge base a student must already have to complete your Cert III. In truth I find that so much of what we do today involves complex reasoning right down to bread choices in the supermarket! 🙂

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